Aside from touch screens, our delivery options were limited to floppy disks. This section is a quicky about the Mackerel Stack and Bubblewrap, and how we made it seem bigger than it was.

The original hypercard Mackerel Stack was designed to fit on a single 800 KB disk, which was barely enough to contain all the excitement. With each revision we would add content and remove content, but we would inevitably find ourselves 25-40k over budget. As we looked for more and more ways to ‘compress’ our stack we had to develop a real sense of how much data was really necessary, and what kinds of data are more efficient.

We found ourselves going through every graphic and eliminating stray pixels because they broke up efficient patterns. A stray pixel in the middle of a flat field of colour could make the graphic twice as big. How much do you really want that pixel? We had to ask ourselves that question again and again, and sometimes we put it back.

We would eliminate most comments from scripts, and eventually we were even shortening the names of variables to reduce the size of scripts.

Tiny size forced us to explore procedural sounds rather than recorded soundtracks, and thus sound design became a completely integral part of
our process.

Finally, there was slight of hand. We always hid a few Easter eggs in our
small projects, so you were never sure if you had explored the whole thing. Easter eggs created the illusion that there was always more content in
there somewhere.

As promised, here are the samples:

The original Virtual Bubblewrap was an Easter egg within The Mackerel Stack 2.0, released in 1993. Download the Mackerel Stack here, and run it on an old Macintosh, with an 8 bit colour monitor. On your new Mac, it will run in classic mode, but may exhibit unintentional wierdness, as processors are roughly 100 times faster these days.

Following the success of the Mackerel Stack, we made a floppy-based interactive for Toyota USA. Download it for Mac or Windows here. (Same advice as above: These were designed for 1994 PC’s and Macs.)

Virtual Bubblewrap, as a web experience, first appeared in 1995. (Yes, that’s now 2 years beyond the scope of this article, but since we mentioned it, I figure we might as well post the DCR, (here it is.) It works fine on my Mac OSX browsers, but Windows browsers don’t seem to support this older format. Joey DeVilla, who programmed the Shockwave version, has made a Windows stand-alone available on his site. We’ll write a more complete story about Bubblewrap ‘soon’ but in the meantime, if you’re interested, here’s the high-score list from 1996 on One million bubbles?? Ack! Who were these people?


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